Greek Scientists Conduct Pioneering Study in Coronavirus Mutation

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A pioneering study by Greek scientists at the Hellenic Pasteur Institute (EIP), in collaboration with Athens University Medical School Professor of epidemiology, Sotiris Tsiodras, has been conducted recently and its full findings are expected to be published in the near future.

The researchers have already submitted their results and are awaiting publication in the acclaimed scientific periodical called the Journal of Clinical Virology.

The study aims to form a fuller understanding of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, the novel virus which has caused such chaos across the globe in recent months, including how it may mutate.

According to initial information published by the researchers, the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus demonstrates significant genomic diversity and plasticity within its hosts and has regions in its genome which are prone to genomic alterations, or mutations — including a potential recombination hotspot.

Researchers analyzed NGS data derived from clinical samples from three Chinese patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, in order to identify small and large-scale intra-host variations in the viral genome.

They identified tens of low — and higher — frequency single nucleotide variations (SNVs) with variable density across the viral genome, affecting 7 out of 10 protein-coding viral genes.

The majority of these SNVs corresponded to missense changes, which are alterations in one amino acid in a protein, arising from a point mutation in a single nucleotide.

The annotation of the identified SNVs in addition to all currently circulating strain variations revealed co-localization of not only intra-host but also strain-specific SNVs, with primers and probes currently used in molecular diagnostics assays.

The bioinformatics analysis conducted by the scientists disclosed genomic rearrangements over poly-A and poly-U regions located in ORF1ab and spike (S) gene, including a potential recombination hot-spot within the S gene.

Despite this scientific jargon, which of course is not completely understood by the ordinary person, the study conducted by the Greek scientists aims to build upon humanity’s current efforts to understand and finally manage to beat the novel coronavirus, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives across our planet.